Interview with HTC VP Jason Mackenzie

We got a chance to sit down, so to speak, with HTC America’s VP, Jason Mackenzie Monday evening. There was this little, tiny announcement you might have missed, and we wanted to pry in a little deeper with one of the new partners of the new Open Handset Alliance. Known for their superior Windows Mobile devices (let’s face it, that WinMo device in your hand is most likely made by HTC), they are diving in to Android-based devices to expand their portfolio. How does this play out with their Windows Mobile line-up? Is HTC going in a new direction? Better yet, when will we actually see an Android-based device? All the answers, friends, are after the jump in our interview!

Q: HTC is the #1 Windows Mobile manufacturer in the world. You guys basically set the bar for other smaller Windows Mobile manufacturers to follow. How do you think this will affect Android-based devices and what sort of split do you see between research and development of Windows mobile devices, and Android devices?

A: Windows Mobile will always be a big part of HTC. We have a significant share of 75% worldwide and expect that to grow. Android will be complimentary to Windows Mobile and we’ll focus on a new market share with the Android platform.

Q: You have manufactured devices for Palm and done other white label work in the past before, so how comfortable are you working with over 34 partners and possibly sharing some of the secret know-how that keeps you, HTC, as a company above the competition, to the whole alliance now?

A: We will continue to innovate in this space just as in Windows Mobile, and we’ll share some innovations with Android. TouchFLO example will be kept proprietary, and they appreciate the openness of that.

Q: There is a ton of talk over this “Dream” phone, and ever since the first Google phone rumor emerged it seems that HTC was always thrown in the middle. Is there anything specific you can tell us about the device you promised would ship by the middle of 2008?

A: Only thing to share, is that we will be the first manufacturer to launch a product built on the Android platform. In terms of specifics, it is too early.

Q: How do you feel about leaks in your company? There are 2 sides of the argument, and one is that leaks let competitors know your next move, and the other side is that if you have a great product, it generates an unbelievable amount of hype that simply couldn’t’t be obtained through a traditional marketing campaign. We have the guilty pleasure here at The Boy Genius Report of obtaining HTC devices long before most other sites, and the enthusiasm of our readers and commenters for some of these handsets has been unbelievable.

A: It’s a double-edged sword. We don’t sponsor them or advocate them, but on the other hand, it is also a little bit flattering. We build devices that people are passionate about, and because of that it is difficult to avoid leaks.

Q: It sometimes seems that HTC Europe and HTC America might not communicate as effectively as they need to. Do you see the HTC America market less important than say, Europe?
 
A: It is different in the sense that in the America region, we have the operators who are the core of the wireless business in the US. Almost 90% operators. In Europe, it is 50%, but you also have the unlocked retail channel. It is that facet that contributes to the feeling that it is disjointed. In the US, everything we are doing is through the operator, and we have to be respectful of their product announcements.

Q: Do you have any plans to do direct distribution in the US?

A: Definitely something we would consider. We already started doing it with Amazon and CompUSA with the Advantage, and the upcoming HTC Shift. We’d also like to sell handsets through HTC.com.

Q: There is no marketing here in the US for HTC directly. We might maybe see a carrier-supported campaign, though that is rare. Do you have any plans to concentrate on establishing and expanding the HTC brand here a little more than you might have done in the past?

We’re moving in that direction. You’ll see us now trying to focus more on the brand. For instance, HTC is now prominently featured on the Sprint Touch, and the T-Mobile Shadow. We haven’t been as aggressive since we work closely with the operators but we’re looking to be more front and center.

Q: Thanks for your time, Jason.

A: Thank you.

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